[Callers] Compact dances

Lisa Greenleaf laleaf at verizon.net
Sun Mar 27 18:31:36 PDT 2011

First, let me clarify what happened in Rehoboth, which prompted Paul Wilde's original message about crowded halls.

I  taught the dance and actually let it run one time through.  The walk through looked fine, but once the music started, people in the middle lines were wincing and no one could make it through the half hey in time to balance their partner.  I stopped the dance after one time through, to the surprise of the musicians and the dancers, and explained that I'd never seen it so crowded and that folks could not get through the hey (instant applause from the center lines).  I then picked a dance that would go with the tune that Crowfoot had already chosen, and the dance continued.

For Neffa medleys and the more popular crowded hall events at the Festival, I advise callers to avoid any figure that requires all dancers to be in the center of the line at one time: R and L Through, Pass the Ocean, Pass through, Star Promenade, Cross Trail Through.  Promenades work because you can instruct dancers to go in tandem.  Whole Heys aren't satisfying in such conditions, either; usually, half Heys work, but as I found out at Rehoboth, not when there isn't much side-to-side room. Similarly, Ladies Chain can be painful to watch, and Mad Robin-type actions can be dangerous.

Figures that do work are Lines Forward and Back (with an appropriate caveat about backing up too far or too vigorously), Stars, Waves, Allemandes, Circle Balances and Petronella Twirls (but not California Twirls), and whole set Circles.  It's limiting, but if you have a hot band, you can have them vary the style of music to add variety.

When it's as crowded as it was in Rehoboth, it's the caller's responsibility to remind people to stay aware of their minuscule dance space; several times I urged people to be careful on Balance and Swing: "There's someone behind you!" and on twirls out of Ladies Chain.  When I had to stop that one dance, I also said, "We're having an energetic right now without a lot of room.  If someone bumps into you, say, "Careful!" and if you do the bumping say, 'Sorry!'  And a smile is always a great way to deliver the message."  Some people need to have such niceties modeled for them, so why not go ahead and show them how it can done well.

Lisa Greenleaf

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